Unique Small Ship Cruises You May Not Know About
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
What Kind of Cruiser Are You?
Ahoy there! Earlier this month, I outlined the differences between ocean and river cruising.
Today, I want to follow up with four fabulous yet little-known cruise options that you need to know! In pandemic conditions, these cruise options provide the ideal intimate setting for your solo, couples, family, or small group vacation.
Keep reading for more information on expedition, sailboat, yacht, and barge cruising so that you can decide: what kind of cruiser are you?
Expedition cruising is all about exploration and adventure at off-the-beaten path destinations, especially those that highlight natural beauty. The industry is experiencing a renaissance, with several dozen vessels being built as we speak. That’s no surprise when you consider that many who choose an expedition cruise have never cruised before.
Expedition cruising differs from traditional cruising in that it’s more about the destination. For this reason, scheduling and stops are fluid, shifting to take advantage of weather and sea conditions and wildlife sightings, for example. Life onboard is active, but calmer and more focused than on a larger ship. With a typical range of 100 to 200 passengers, expedition cruises are suitable for all ages and are an especially good fit for children because of their emphasis on outdoor activities.
Most expedition cruises are led by science-oriented experts such as marine biologists and wildlife photographers who lecture onboard and lead excursions ashore. Expedition landings are often wet, as smaller destinations may not be equipped with a pier. But once ashore, expeditions are organized by fitness level, ranging from a relaxing nature stroll to a strenuous hike.
Luxury expedition cruise lines such as Silversea Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions, and Uncruise Adventures combine adventure ashore with high-end luxury touches onboard in familiar destinations like Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest and exotic destinations like the Amazon, the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, and the South Pacific.
Sailboat cruising combines the majestic wonder of nineteenth-century sailing vessels with the luxury of a yacht, balancing indulgence with harmony with the environment and the sea. On a sailboat cruise, you won’t want to miss climbing the lookout mast for the most fantastic view of open waters! And as the sea is the order of the day, you can expect a range of water sports onboard, including snorkeling, banana boating, sunfish sailing, water skiing, and windsurfing. With roughly 200 passengers and 100 crew—20 alone to operate the sails!—sailboat cruising provides an intimate and yet relaxed experience, with no rigid schedules or dress codes, even for dining. Enjoy a continental breakfast, buffet lunch, and seated dinner at your leisure in the dining room adjoined to an indoor-outdoor bar and piano lounge. Cozy up with a book or challenge your companions to a board game in the library equipped with a fireplace. And don’t miss the barbeque on the open deck equipped with multiple pools. Luxury sailboat cruise line Star Clippers offers voyages around the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, including ocean crossings. Keep an eye out for their themed sailings, too, organized around holidays like Christmas, staffed by celebrity chefs, or focused on activities like yoga.
Yachts aren’t just for the rich and famous anymore! Yacht cruising emphasizes chic and stylish ambiance, personalized service, and smaller port destinations. It’s an intimate and authentic small-group experience, often with a one-to-one staff to guest ratio. The advantage of yacht cruising is the relaxing and leisurely pace accompanied by more intimate and thoughtful planning. Not only will the boat and ports be uncrowded, the programming onboard and ashore is exclusive and carefully curated. Yacht cruise lines like EYOS Expeditions, SeaDream Yachts, Emerald Yacht Cruises, and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection offer voyages in indulgent destinations around the Mediterranean such as the Greek Islands, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, the South of France, and Ibiza as well as exotic locales such as Tahiti, the Seychelles, and the West Indies. If you’d prefer an even more private experience for you and a handful of guests, I can charter you a private yacht as well.
Barge cruises are the bed and breakfast of cruising, allowing for slow, immersive travel—a kind of gentle adventure on the country road less traveled. While the industry began in the mid-twentieth century with the repurposing of work barges, it has picked up steam in the past decade with roughly seventy cruise barges currently in use. It’s easy to see why when barges allow passengers to explore the nooks and crannies of their destinations, traveling up and down man-made canals and small rivers.
Week-long barge cruises explore one region of a country, traveling between thirty and fifty miles at roughly four miles an hour. This slow speed has its advantages. Passengers are unlikely to experience seasickness or claustrophobia and may hop on and off at their leisure without fear of losing the boat. Why not make use of an onboard bicycle to ride the towpath through the local village? Or stay onboard and watch the captain and handful of crew navigate the lock. While barge cruises feature smaller staterooms and little onboard entertainment, you’ll find you care not, as you’re immersed in village life, chatting with people on shore and photographing the passing scenery.
The small size of a barge cruise, from a few passengers to a couple dozen, is ideal for daily excursions. Whether walking into town or piling into a van, your onboard guide will give you an exclusive expert-led tour of castles, vineyards, artisans, farms, and monasteries. If you’re seeking adventure, you might take advantage of opportunities for hot air ballooning, golf, kayaking, and horseback riding. Back onboard, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, often dining family style at one long table. Breakfast and lunch may be prepared by a master chef cooking locally-sourced, seasonal cuisine of the destination or catered from a local restaurant, while passengers may disembark to dine at a posh village restaurant for dinner.
Luxury barge cruise lines like European Waterways offer voyages around France, Italy, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, and Holland. Barge cruises are great for solo travelers and introverts, who will become one with the group in no time, as well as multigenerational families with children. With the small size of barge cruises, it’s easy to reserve an entire boat for your family and friends, allowing you to customize your excursions and ensure a socially distanced vacation. It's on my bucket list to reserve our own private barge in Europe with my husband and three other couples!
If this in-depth look into new opportunities in cruising has the open sea calling your name, get in touch with me today to plan your voyage. It’s never too soon to get underway planning your next vacation! Whatever boat you choose, I’m wishing you the sailing of a lifetime.